If you live in London, you'll know that public transport is a particularly big deal. Unlike much of the rest of the country, the city is disproportionately reliant on the Tube, buses and trains to get about. And this makes choosing where to live important, as you always want to pick somewhere with good connections to stations and bus stops. But is there a way to measure this with any precision? Brilliantly, Transport for London (TfL) now has a tool for doing just this.
WebCAT takes all of TfL's transport data and uses it to make a map showing exactly how long it takes to get to different places from any address in the city. For example if you live at 10 Downing Street using WebCAT you can find that it is possible to reach the British Museum in just 15 minutes, or London Zoo in less than 30.
WebCAT doesn't just work "as the crow flies" and considers real journey options, so some places that are geographically further away can be reached more quickly than closer places due to better transport connections. For example, from Downing Street it is possible to reach Canary Wharf in less than 30 minutes (thanks to the Jubilee Line) but if you want to reach Millwall's stadium at The Den, which is closer, then it'll probably take about an hour.
The reason WebCAT exists isn't just for us to waste hours playing with it either - it was originally built for serious TfL business. The organisation use it to analyse the perceived "access level" of places in London, assigning a number between 0 and 6 to denote connectivity, which can vary more than you might think throughout the city. If you live on a main road, your access level is probably pretty good as there will be bus stops - but if you live deep in the middle of a housing estate with no buses, it is likely to be much lower.
What's also super clever is that you can adjust the year the data is relevant for, and even look into the future. By default, the data used is from 2011, but in the dropdown menu you can switch to 2021 or 2031, to see how future London infrastructure projects might affect you. If you live on London's East/West axis, the arrival of Crossrail in 2018 will likely change your transport connectivity significantly.
So why not go have a play with it? Just promise not to tell any estate agents, so they don't find a new excuse to screw us over and hike our rents.